YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Cameroon's ruling party kicked off a week of celebrations for its 30th anniversary in power, lauding its accomplishments while the opposition accuses it of monopolizing authority.
Festivities to mark the launch of the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement began Saturday in the northern town of Maroua, which is the capital of the northern province that has been attacked by the Nigerian insurgent group Boko Haram.
"We are celebrating the day with dignity and sobriety to demonstrate solidarity with victims of Boko Haram insurgency," said party secretary general, Jean Nkuete, citing achievements in health, education and development of the country.
Founded by 82-year-old President Paul Biya on March 24, 1985, the party has had a stranglehold on power in this country of 21 million.
The U.S.-based Freedom House organization has classified Cameroon as "not free" and said that it has "a long history restricting space" for activism and political organizations.
Opposition leader John Fru Ndi said after 30 years, it is time for real political transition.
"They are celebrating 30 years of failed promises to the Cameroonian people, 30 years of dictatorship even within their party. Tell me who can dare challenge Paul Biya within his party," he said.
While Cameroon has some 300 registered political parties, most are reportedly linked to Biya and his party holds 140 of the 180 parliamentary seats.
A recent anti-terrorism law gives the death penalty for terrorist offenses that are broadly defined to include "disturbing public order" and activists warn it could be used to target government opponents.
A recent purge of ministers and top government officials on corruption charges has been described as an effort to remove potential challengers to Biya from within his own party.
"It is only in rare countries like Cameroon where you find a president who is the head of the armed forces, the judiciary, government, his political party and every other thing, so he is a supra president," said human rights activists Paul Ntamack.